Tag: Associated Press

IRS and AP Scandal Updates

Scandal week continues. And it keeps getting more interesting.

One of the pieces of pravda handed down by this Administration was the the AP wiretap was put in place because of a leak that endangered national security. Um, maybe not:

For five days, reporters at the Associated Press had been sitting on a big scoop about a foiled al-Qaeda plot at the request of CIA officials. Then, in a hastily scheduled Monday morning meeting, the journalists were asked by agency officials to hold off on publishing the story for just one more day.

The CIA officials, who had initially cited national security concerns in an attempt to delay publication, no longer had those worries, according to individuals familiar with the exchange. Instead, the Obama administration was planning to announce the successful counterterrorism operation that Tuesday.

The AP balked and ran the story anyway. And then the investigation was begun. I could be generous and say that this was just a bureaucratic mixup. But I’m not feeling generous. This feels more like two things: a petty way to get back at the AP for stealing Obama’s thunder and a fishing expedition to see if they could find any government sources talking to the AP. Neither justifies obtaining two months worth of phone records.

Meanwhile, more details continue to emerge from the IRS scandal including details of just how invasive the questions were and allegations (unconfirmed) that a pro-Life group was told they couldn’t protest at Planned Parenthood Organizations.

But at least the people responsible are being … oh:

The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.

Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.

Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit.

Well, at least the liberals are going to … oh:

Democrats can’t say it; Barack Obama can’t say it; and the IRS certainly can’t say it, so here goes: The only real sin the IRS committed in its ostensible targeting of conservatives is the sin of political incorrectness—that is, of not pretending it needed to vet all the new groups that wanted tax-exempt status, even though it mostly just needed to vet right-wing groups.

The gist of this appalling defense of the IRS’s action by Noam Schieber is that those dumb Tea Party groups provoked the IRS by filing tax forms. Seriously:

It turns out that the applications the conservative groups submitted to the IRS—the ones the agency subsequently combed over, provoking nonstop howling—were unnecessary. The IRS doesn’t require so-called 501c4 organizations to apply for tax-exempt status. If anyone wants to start a social welfare group, they can just do it, then submit the corresponding tax return (form 990) at the end of the year. To be sure, the IRS certainly allows groups to apply for tax-exempt status if they want to make their status official. But the application is completely voluntary, making it a strange basis for an alleged witch hunt.

This is ridiculous. No one — certainly not anyone who is temperamentally suspicious of the government and the IRS — would wait before confirming their tax status.

Moreover, the IRS has admitted that they selected organizations based on their names and their stated purpose. There is evidence that “provocative” applications from left-wing groups sailed through just fine. In fact, one group had their application approved almost instantly when they changed their name to “Greenhouse Solutions.”

No matter how much the defenders wriggle, these are serious issues. Probably not “impeach the President” issues — Obama is currently wearing a fake moustache and claiming it was all Bush’s fault. But certainly serious enough to warrant investigations, resignations and, in the IRS scandal case, possibly criminal charges.

Sorry, Obama defenders. This is real.

Update: Jon Stewart nails it:

Scandal Week

With Benghazi revelations and IRS abuses dominating the headlines, the Obama Administration is releasing details on a couple of additional scandals, hoping they will slip under the radar.

No dice, guys:

First:

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had “gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law.” According to the Post, an HHS source and an industry official have affirmed that over the last three months, “Sebelius has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law.”

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that two organizations expected to be supporting the law are The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is expected to give $10 million, and H&R Block, which will give a “donation” of $500,000. The Post and the Times reports also indicate that Secretary Sebelius has made contact with insurers, asking them to support the health law’s implementation.

One of the things I’ve noticed about this Administration is that they are very devoted to finding ways to violate the spirit, if not exactly the letter, of the law. They are constantly searching for loopholes and excuses for behavior that is supposed to be forbidden.

In this case, Sebelius is strictly forbidden from fundraising or soliciting funds in an official capacity. She can do so as a private citizen, but not with her official title and not with companies she regulates. The White House’s answer is that “Sebelius did not solicit for funds directly from industries that HHS regulates, such as insurance companies and hospitals, but rather asked them to contribute in whatever way they can” with is Orwellian doublespeak. There is no question about how industry saw this shakedown and I doubt that the Obama Administration is under any delusions either. They’re hoping that they’ve skirted the law. But the ultimate result is just the same.

But wait, there’s more!

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

And, just like that, the press suddenly becomes aware of the gigantic surveillance state that Barack Obama has built up over the last four years.

The government is not saying why they tapped the phones. They have previously hinted that they were investigating a leak of classified information. But even if that’s the case, this was a massive sweep of AP journalists. It crosses that line from investigating a specific criminal action into engaging in broad unwarranted surveillance for any potential criminal action. It’s the difference between having Constitutional safeguards on our liberty and not having them at all.

What we are seeing is apotheosis of an Administration that has had far too little checking and balancing from the media. No matter what Obama has done, the media has been on his side, either ignoring it for finding excuses for it. And they have kept pushing and pushing the boundaries until, perhaps, they have finally crossed a line that even liberals might notice.

With the AP scandal especially, a lot of scales are falling from a lot of eyes. Better late than never, I guess. But we’ll just see how enthusiastically they cover the next revelation.